I just had to replace the blades on my Graf 709s. They are 5 years old and I originally chose them because at the time of purchase I had difficulty finding in-stock skates that properly fit my foot. (Small feet, high arches)
At the skate shop yesterday I started wondering about getting new skates. But I'm not sure I need them. I have no complaints with my Grafs but you never know how much better new skates might be. It's not like I've tried many brands. I skate pretty regularly, aiming for 2-3 times per week.
But with the cost of $ and time to break in, I'm tempted to just stick to what I have.
Actually the 709s were made for people wide feet, high arches and a high instep. If that is what your foot type actually is then there aren't that many skates that will fit you properly. I have a high arch and instep with a wider forefoot so I also used the 709s for a while. Had to stop though because I was getting heel bone spurs due to the heel pocket being too wide and now I'm in the G70's which have a narrower heel although not as deep. Making the switch, 709s are actually very heavy compared to other brands, but they are super durable.
An alternative would be to try the Bauer Nexus line which fits deeper than their Vapour and Supreme line, but not as deep as the 709. Easton makes wider skates but they have shallow depth. Customs are gonna cost you and you've said money is a concern. Just try some on at a shop and ask someone who knows his stuff about what skate fits what foot. Don't just take his/her word for it though as you are the one who can feel what is right or not. Try the pencil test to check skate depth - with your foot in the boot place a pencil horizontally across the 4th eyelet down from the top. If the pencil rests against the skate boot ok then the skate is deep enough. If your foot is coming out from the boot causing the pencil to not rest across then the skate is too shallow.
I'm surprised all brands don't cater for the fact that people's feet are different. Bauer recentlyish acknowledged it with their Nexus line but before that it seemed only Graf had different skates for a wide range of different foot types. Mind they lagged behind in terms of technology and weight for a long time too.
Thanks for the thoughtful response Vexxed. I might have wide feet compared to my shoe size (8) but I know the high arches was the main problem that ruled out most skates.
I originally got my skates at a place in Ottawa that specializes in fitting skates. The guy was awesome, he had me try skate after skate and it took him 2 seconds to say, "Nope". He didn't even need to lace them up. (He basically confirmed what I had discovered at prior hockey stores) We finally settled on Graf 709s purely based on what was in stock that fit properly and I've had no complaints.
I didn't realize Grafs were on the heavy end of skates. Like I said, I'm not unhappy with the skates but after 5 years I've been wondering if a new set could be an improvement.